Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Gamma World lives, Gamma World dies, Gamma World lives again

Gamma World 1e is for sale again! I have Metamorphosis Alpha from Goodman Games, but it's nice to see 1e GW back in pdf and print, all legit.

GW streamlines the subsystem-happy Metamorphosis Alpha - not as much as I would myself, but enough to make a difference. No longer are there different 2d6-for-bows and 3d6-for-laser-guns to-hit rules. I can kind of see the appeal of them - it makes some weapons feel very different! But practically when you're dealing with lots of different armor classes, it seems like it would get clunky.

To streamline GW further you could take the 6 stats - Physical Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Mental Strength, Intelligence, and Charisma, and run using roll-under rules, Black Hack style. Or roll a d20 + stat >= 20, so you're back in Roll High or Die land. Psychic combat is just two fools rolling their mental strength against one another, radiation is just rolling + Constitution, minus the radiation intensity level.

'There's no attempt to scale things to the players' - Mearls on Gamma World

Also, in the vein of Gamma World returning: Mike Mearls is playtesting a new Gamma World, as a 5E DnD hack. It's funny because I'm not super into 5e, but this is really cool. It sounds like Mearls is nailing the gonzo crazy stuff that happens in GW, and also trying to make it not just a 5E DnD game - it sounds more like you go in gameplay loops of exploring, scavenging, discovering, and kinda-sorta base building. That's over here.

More of the system is described here - this char creation is brilliant and right in line with a Black Hack style game. Take 18 dice, distribute them among your stats, roll and see what you get. You can roll 5d6 for one stat and 1d6 for another. The Tech Level stuff is also great - roll under Intelligence, but you better roll _over_ the 1d4, 1d6 or 1d8 you roll for the tech level, or you have a Big Problem. The teddy-bear-shaped claymore mine explodes in your face! The gun starts firing and will not stop! The tank is moving backwards now and accelerating to 60mph! I think that in Mearls' system you're probably rolling over and the 1d4, 1d6, etc is just to make some low roll failures really bad, but I could also see making it 'success with problems' where you figure out how the thing works, but now you have to survive activating it badly!

I am impressed that just a few details about this hack by Mearls are so evocative of GW and so easily transportable to other games, but that's the beauty of these systems - they play off one another and are highly modular. It's easy to take some components from something based on 5E and throw it into a Black Hack hack.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Quill: Troika Edition Rev 1

I really love Quill. For solo gaming, it really paces things perfectly for me. This is an attempt to use Troika! and Quill White Box together.

Before each paragraph, roll a Luck check as normal. Within the paragraph, make an appropriate Skill check of some kind based on what you're writing. At the end, decrease or increase your Stamina. Once per letter instead of decreasing stamina you can take some other form of consequences - you use up some gear, you get in a worse situation for subsequent paragraphs, etc.

Pass Luck Check

  • Pass Skill Check: +2 Stamina!
  • Fail Skill Check: Damage as club
Fail Luck Check
  • Pass Skill Check: Damage as dagger
  • Fail Skill Check: Damage as sword
Between letters you can regain 2d6 stamina and 2d6 luck, and test for learning / improving skills. For the reader, a random amount of time passes: d66 1) minutes 2-3) hours 4-5) days 6) months 

This might be a bit too 'you died' for some folks. I picked clubs forgetting that they actually can do quite a bit of damage. But the idea is that if you fail 1 of the 2 checks, there's some kind of negative consequence, if you fail both, it's really bad. Of course, this also disincentivized casting spells, as they use up stamina, so some more thought is probably needed.

In the next rev I imagine luck tests will be to find / acquire needed gear which may give bonuses on skill checks, at the cost of 3 Luck per check (rather than 1). A failed skill check may or may not lead to Stamina loss, depending on the fiction.


Crashing Into Troika
Scenario: You are the lone awakened being aboard a Pilgrimage Barge. Row upon row of plinths house the frozen Sleepers awaiting the day of religious awakening. But of course, your peaceful days of loneliness and holo-dueling are coming to an end. 

Good Phrase / Bad Phrase
Sleepers / endless rows of freezing coffins
Yowling Alarum / strange warbling music
sluggish controls / dead stick
Impact Throne / trash-filled escape pod cavity
Cracked, beached barge / smoldering ruin
Helpful robed being / angry wizardling
Space Tick / warp monster
Cracked Firmament / rent skyway
free Hospitallers / drunk barber chiurgeon 
Bumbling local sheriff / flint-eyed lawman
rent-controlled under-hostel / lower bridge tarp-dwelling


Tilting Windmills
Scenario: The local lightening-generators, a series of windmills, stand still in the becalmed air. Power rationing cripples the area and makes for angry mobs. You must somehow marshal some ineffable (or otherwise) force to prevail upon these conditions and make them tolerable again, lest the local constabulary burn you as a witch.

Good Phrase / Bad Phrase
Utterly becalmed / annual stilled months
Rolling brownouts / blackened city blocks
Angry mobs / riotous ruin cultists
Local Giant Labor Council 7734 / uncooperative officials
Massive whale sandwiches / silo of gruel
Plasmic air-condensors / Glimmer Empire artifacts
Gold-burning backup generators / picky power-shitters
Winning hand / Falsified cards
Giant electrovores / mutant underground leach-eels
Quick caravan / slow lines of refugees
Generous Noble House / tittering sentient-hunters

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Quillhammer 40,000 rev 1 and play

I was inspired a bit by dice-pools from Wrath and Glory, the new 40k tabletop RPG, and am as always inspired by Quill when playing a solo game because it's my favorite for pacing and adventure design.

Also inspired by Quill and Dragon by Tarsicio Lucas, which combines traditional DnD with Quill and gave me the idea to try this with other systems.  

The system:

You have 4 stats. Faith, Kill, Warp, Politick. You pick a good word / bad word pair and roll your d6: your stat dice and a difficulty die. For your stat dice, a 4 or 5 is a success, a 6 is two successes.

Difficulty die result
Successes needed

This was actually a little too easy - or I was lucky the first time around. Next time the difficulty die roll is just the number of successes needed. Roll a 6, need 6, roll a 4, need 4, etc. That is simpler to remember.

I had let a shit-tier PC start with a 6, 5, 4, 4 in stats. This was also probably too high, was basing this from looking at W&G PCs at Tier 3 (ie space marines or mortal equivalent, where their highest aptitude was around 9-11 or so).

So in the future: you need a number of successes equal to a d6 you roll, the difficulty die. You don't know the difficulty in advance. You have some stats: FAITH, KILL, and WARP. (After rev 1 of the playthrough, it felt like Politick was out of place. Perhaps due to the subject matter.) Maybe you sneak around by praying to the Emperor, maybe you're mildly psychic in a way that doesn't attract warp demons, maybe you sneak thanks to your assassin training (ie use KILL). Tech priests definitely keep technology running with Faith. Maybe WARP is just your knowledge of and ability to track / detect / Inquisitor after Warp-tainted heretics, rather than a measure of your own heretical taint.

You roll your stat dice and the difficulty die. If you succeed you write a paragraph using the Good Phrase. If you fail, use the Bad Phrase, and lose 1 HP. If you lose all your HP, you die. You start with 4. You can recover 2 HP between letters. You can die mid-letter, just have a colophon of the crushing despair of eternal war.

You cannot use the same stat until you've rolled for the other ones. Or you can but you can't repeat a stat more than twice per letter.

Battle Barge Serf
Summary: You are a serf aboard a battle barge, rendering hereditary service to the Angel Legion of Omega Angels. They blur through combat katas in practice on a totally foreign end of the 5 km long ship. You have lived all of your life on or around The Gun, making sure it is anointed and in working order, chanting prayers in its aiming room to aid it should it be required to fire.

Good phrase / Bad phrase
  1. daily work / ceaseless toil
  2. loader servitor / rotting mecha-zombie
  3. heretical cult / xeno artifact worshipers
  4. burning wreckage / Chaos lamprey boarderships
  5. Librarian's faithful servant / harshly-speaking mechanoskull
  6. heretical space hulk / holy redoubt of the old Empire
  7. corridor delta-omega 4 / 4km hallway
  8. intact purity seals / mouldering wax fragments
  9. happily humming machinery / spiteful machine spirit
  10. noble Angel / suspicious space marine

Playthrough 1:
Tiber Flackson
Ultramarine serf
Aboard the battle barge, His Golden Will

Tier 1
Faith 6
Kill 5
Warp 4
Politick 4
1/1 Fate (as per WFRP, or my warped understanding of it. A reroll metacurrency, I gave Flackson one because I figured he would be mincemeat.)

Daily work / ceaseless toil
FAITH. Diff 3, Successes: 3
My daily work done in joy, I pray for our sibling vessel in our chapel at the base of The Gun. I light a candle, rendered from old candle-stubs and fat, and pray to the Emperor to watch over all of us as we journey through the Wyrd, as we near 94 days in this languid hellscape. The candle burns brightly in the small chapel, its glow reflected in the low plasteel ceiling. The machine spirits around us growl softly as though in prayers of their own to the Emperor.

heretical cult / xeno artifact worshipers.
KILL. Diff 5, success 4. Spend 1 Fate to reroll and get 6 successes
Heresy hides even in Holy Terra, and as there, so here. Aftwards of The Gun, near the Power Inversion Anterior Hemisphere 3, a Gun-sister on her morning Physics-cal Trainings overheard deranged chanting. Gun-brothers and sisters drew arms while runners left to tell the Holy Angels. But our blood was up, we were determined to show them our Faith lest they purge the lot of us and let the Emperor guide the worthy in the next life.

By the time the runners got to our Angels, my mother's mother's mother's chainsword had already tasted the blood and flesh of heretics. A bolter-round trap nearly kilt me, but the tiny tocket detonated prematurely when it struck my Icon of the Emperor, who surely saved me this day. I am expected to return to full efficiency soon, and will likely be able to speak once our barber-surgeon pulls the last few metal fragments from my throat and jaw.

heretical space hulk / holy redoubt
WARP. Diff 3, Success 4 (2 6's!)
We were prostrated in our sacred velocity harnesses today as the ship's machine spirit roared challenges across the warp at a heretical space hulk and bent our route around it. Ancient Imperial ships twisted in a mockery of their old forms. I noticed my bunkmate, Garrell, genuflecting towards them as we lay in the Targetting Room, watching in case we needed to rain down vengeance from The Gun. When maneuvers ended I arose and slew Garrell, who did not struggle. He knew he had faltered and accepted his death. May the God-Emperor forgive him.

Noble Angel / suspicious space marine
POLITICK Diff 3, Success 3
A noble Angel soldier came to confirm the elimination of the recent heretics and destruction of their works. We of The Gun provided a full accounting. The giant lumbered through, filling our wide ammunition-delivery portals and corridors with his armored bulk. His wise eyes judged us and found us worthy. May the Emperor watch over him. Blessed are we who dwell among His Angels.

Intact purity seals / mouldering wax fragments
FAITH diff 3, success 4
Despite, or because of the trust of that lumbering Angel, I was struck by doubt and journeyed deep into the dark within The Gun. I have crawled now for 7 hours through its humming guts. Every power access and every jam-clearing station have displayed intact purity seals, and I have left candles burning and prayers in my wake, lighting the journey. The Emperor lights all our journeys through this dark universe. May he live forever.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Plundering the Copy Vats: Encounters

I enjoyed +Chris McDowall's Small Tables and have written one for encounters within the abandoned Copy Vats.
  1. 4 Bad Copies. 1 hp, 8 Str, d6 bent swords, walk sideways, want to find reflections and destroy reflections. 
  2. 10 Bad Copies. As above, trying to destroy puddles of water by stamping or drinking. First time you roll this, one has a mirror Daemon / Oddity they're going to destroy next.
  3. Copied Sage. 8 hp, 13 Str, 16 Cha. d6 + 2 Voice of Ponderousness (area). Wants to obtain the last copy of Transfixation, somewhere in a Vat copy receiver chamber.
  4. Perfect Copy. 9 hp, 14 Str, 14 Dex, 14 Cha, d6+2 heavy fists. Nude, wants to eliminate inadequate life, and/or be worshipped. 
  5. 6 Copy Cultists. 5 hp, d6 rifles, bad trip gas grenade, Cha save or feel like they're really ok, 1d6 Cha damage to ignore this. Want to take copy machines, live forever via copying. Will take any relic from the vats.
  6. Radueirel, Angel. Dex 13, Cha 12, Str 9, hp 4. Twin people occupying a mirrored space, which follows them around, reflecting ranged attacks that target the one in the mirror. Survives unless you step into mirror and kill reflection (which has the same stats). Wants to create perfect lossless copies, knows the Perfect Copy is flawed. 
Damage against Angels is impaired.

Inspired by Bastion Ein Sof

I'm running something with this and the Maze tables from Maze Rats. When I roll a 1 on either d6, there's going to be some Copy Vat nearby. Table for vat contents / functionality soon.

Bastion Ein Sof review

Oh yeah, Bastion Ein Sof! I haven't heard a peep about this around on the interwebs. It's a setting for Into the Odd, taking place after the apocalyptic destruction of Bastion. There are some other post-apocalyptic Into the Odd hacks, but this is distinctly less Mad Max and more weirdly metaphysical.

The remnants of humanity crouch in the shadows of Giants, beings which cannot be directly seen. The Angels and their minions cannot come into the shadows, and so there humanity is safe. But the Giants are vulnerable to the machinations of the Angels, and require tribute to continue to provide shelter, to stand still. Humans must tithe silver, Angel blood, or their own flesh to the Giants.

It's evocative and creepy. The Angels can be wounded and can change form, sometimes turning into Oddities or Arcanum, which Ein Sof dubs 'Daemons.' Daemons can, when destroyed, turn back into Angels, so you have a built-in risk/reward for arcanum.

The setting is mythic - the Angels Destroyed Bastion, and the Giants came to save us. The Giants Destroyed Bastion to save us from ourselves. Angels can turn into Giants, PCs can be Angels somehow rendered mortal and able to entire Bastion. The setting is amorphous, shifting, unclear, rumor, like how the crystal of fact would shatter or cloud, after an apocalypse.

The setting is not perfect - in its current form there are a few mechanical things I'm not totally clear on, or that the author wanted to leave up to the DM or the table. You owe the giants a tithe at the end of every session, so in theory you're returning from your expedition. It's not clear, the book states "At the end of every session, you must cross the gates of Heaven" and that this is when sacrifice is made. If not made, the Giant may, based on a 2d6 roll, inflict harm upon the humans in its shadow.

So the gates of Heaven are not described, but I think that's easy enough to envision or hack. I run short sessions so I'd probably have an expedition take 2 and have this happen on the PC's return.

The other strange quibble is how gear purchases are made - to create a character, you get random equipment from a d66 chart, but this random equipment system is suggested as the way characters buy anything at any time. It's odd and not elaborated upon. You have an equal chance of getting a fine weapon, a Daemon, a normal weapon, a drum, a dog, a ferret, a fine hat... So, I can see some players being into this weird shop selling random unknown things like something out of The Legend of Zelda, but I can equally imagine people being annoyed. Still, it's not hard to just use the equipment prices from Into the Odd here.

Oh, there is a third quibble - there is no PDF of this. It only costs four quid plus postage from the UK, which is not insane, but I cannot imagine a PDF would hurt. The book is also quite small, so the fonts are a little small, especially the tables. A PDF could ameliorate that.

The setting slightly hacks damage rules - you only need a d6 for damage rolls, which range from 1d3, d6, d6+2, and then to 2d6 for heavy weapons. I'm fond of this, the game is built to only need a d20 and a d6, as all the random tables follow Chris' Small Tables approach.

Characters have a failed career from a d66 table, and a question - generally telling us, via the question, about the job, and letting the players add some person linking them to the setting or to another character. The book suggests that one should think of what the backgrounds mean and perhaps even ask the players for setting information related to their profession, which one can take or leave at one's preference. Either way the backgrounds are useful for imagining the world.

So the 26 page book, slightly larger than a Field Notes pocket notebook, has principles for running the game, character creation rules, Daemons, Angels with examples and a table of what they turn into when wounded, Giants and examples and their Tribute, and an example adventure with random encounters and some detailed locations. There's a 1d6 reaction roll and some small random tables for giants/angels and their domain, and some locations. For an ashcan edition, it feels like plenty thanks to how much is implied, for me.

Overall it is fantastic for four quid. If you're interested in an apocalypse which concerns itself with shadow-walled cities and evil Angels at the border, Bastion Ein Sof is what you need.

Friday, June 8, 2018

What Automates This Golden Barge?

How does your campaign ship run? Is it a horizon fort which suddenly appears in a new place, its walls leaking blood into the fresh earth and staining your footprint upon new land? Have you been aboard your golden barge so long that you cannot sleep without the sibilant chanting of the kobold barge-worshipers who keep the engine going? Did the ghosts of prior crews chase away that para-demon which tried to stalk the stony corridors of your comet-ship?

What automates this campaign ship? roll 2d6

1. Kobold barge-worshipers
2. Skeletons, semisentient, various stages of decay, various levels of radiation
3. semi-sentient crew vine. 50% some poison ivy
4. unseen servants running off mana batteries
5. precision feng shui of the architecture
6. tiny clay golems made in a small kiln from exotic dirt
7. blue electric gnomes
8. ghosts of prior crew
9. manipulating a scale model of the vehicle at its helm, 'just works'
10. bound demon-crew

The crew has needs of their own. Skeletons need replacement parts, kobolds need some food. Demons want shore leave but gods help the shore.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Quill Scenarios: Academia de Asasinos, Lost Seedship

Basement-Dwelling University Town Resident

You are on a bucolic island, Kalla, roomed in the basement of an old friend, Boory al-Safufi. She is a wonderful host and a professor at the local college. Which is actually the Academia de Asesinos. Tenured positions are limited, and several enterprising postdocs want Boory's position. They are less interested in waiting for her to retire than they are in exploring the practical application of their research.

Profile: You are writing a 'newcomer's perspective' article for the campus paper, Black Poisoned Glove. They want a piece for incoming freshmen, giving them a little special insight into the lives of their professors.

Ink Pot

corpse / dead student
contact poison / Last Sleep
doorknob trap / finger-pinch razor
morbid writings / theoretical treatise
ambitious postdoc / Karol "Wire" Rallner
small crossbow / alley piece
hairpin / concealed weapon
friendly lecture / veiled threat
rope / silk strand
casual admission / orchestrated falsehood
library / wizardarium
steel wire / garrote part
academic robes / discrete armor
folding sword / Blood Sup
blurry garment of many faces / scrambler suit

5 or less: An attempt on Boory's life catches you in the crossfire. You wake up in a drifting cathedral / hospital ship, having lost all your items. If you had no items, you are dead.

6-9: You manage to make 15 gp off your article - the newspaper is reasonably happy. 

10+: The newspaper loves your think-piece and gives you 30gp, and a mostly-used bottle of Ink of Correction (1 use left).

Lost Seedship

You are adrift in a seedship in the deep blue. The craft is a little smaller than a launch, comfortable enough for short trips, but you've been aboard it for weeks. Its living body slowly pulses and gurgles in the sun, amidst your dwindling supplies. The clouds above and below are a haze, and no islands or moons are in sight.

Profile => You are writing a daily log while watching carefully for any signs of civilization. Or just food and water.

Ink Pot 
 friendly vessel / mirage
blue flowers / rain catchers
undermast / stinger
flying fish / cloud trout
rations / venerable MREs of the wizard war
parasites / drumhead beetles 
giant bats / seedeaters
man-sized bat / young seedeater
drifting ship / dead hulk
flares / illusion wands
windy storm / drop tempest
still / becalmed
white noise crystal / radio

5 or less: You find land with water, but you are marooned on a will-o-wisp laden island. See "Marooned" and take the Wisp Whisperer class.

6-9: You manage to signal to a nearby naval vessel, which takes you onboard and treats you for exposure and malnutrition. Your journal is detailed enough that they pay you 15 gp as an explorer's fee, as you had drifted through uncharted sky. They'll drop you at King's Port after a few more weeks (see 'Fire in the Sky').

10+: The naval vessel rewards you with 30 gp and a small bottle of Cinder Ink (3 uses) for your detailed cartographic maps of the uncharted area. They'll drop you at King's Port after a few more weeks (see 'Fire in the Sky').